HOUSE: Newburgh + Scavenging

Scavenged chair upgrade.

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Last month, I got a great deal on bright blue Eames shell chair, but the swivel base was just too office-y for my taste. Over the weekend, I switched out the old base for a black wire rocker base with walnut runners. So much better!

By the way, I personally find the vintage fiberglass Eames shells to be FAR more attractive than the newer polypropylene reproductions made by Vitra. Yes, they’re licensed by Herman Miller, but they just aren’t the same thing. If you live in the U.S., it’s very easy to get vintage Eames shell chairs for less than $50 apiece. Patience is key, but they are absolutely not as unattainable as Vitra would have you believe—there’s no need to pay $229 for a chair ($399 for a rocker!) that doesn’t even look like its supposed to (trust me on this; if you saw a vintage Eames shell next to a new one, you would think the new one is a cheap knockoff). If you find a shell without a base (or with a base you don’t like), there are several people who sell reproduction bases in all styles on eBay. For my money, a vintage shell in all its fiber-rich glory is way more satisfying than a completely smooth piece of new, molded plastic, even if I have to do a little extra work to get it how I want.

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36 Comments

  • Reply Julie December 10, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    I too love the vintage fiberglass ones better than the polypropylene. I hope to find a authentic one some day. In the meantime, I’ll survive on my (I think they are) garage sale knock-offs.

    Definitely love that rocker base better.

  • Reply zee December 11, 2007 at 4:59 am

    Looks gorgeous Anna! I love Eames rockers so much and hope one day to have one, although… I love both vintage and Vitra Eames chairs. I wouldn’t want a house full of Vitra reproductions, but I adore the yummy shades that they come in and damn near swoon whenever I pass “Haus” in Dublin which sells them. However, Vitra RARs cost a whopping €475 / $700 in Ireland and a vintage one can cost almost double that in Irish vintage furniture stores! Ireland doesn’t have much of a design heritage, so vintage designer furniture is usually imported and everything is expensive here on top of that. I prefer doing it the Ebay way and scored my 4 vintage dining chairs inexpensively from Germany. Some day I hope to get a lime green (mmmm lime!) Vitra rocker to compliment them, but I would kill for your beautiful blue one – it rocks (sorry!)

  • Reply zee December 11, 2007 at 5:02 am

    PS: Has the flokati made a comeback? I think they look so cosy this time of year and are perfect with mid-century furniture, so I think maybe it suits your living room better than the IKEA rug. The IKEA one is super cute though.

  • Reply lottie December 11, 2007 at 5:18 am

    It looks great as a rocker by your lovely fireplace. Old Eames shells are so much harder to get hold of in the UK and are hugely expensive. I think one day a chair shopping trip to the States might be in order!

  • Reply lena December 11, 2007 at 7:20 am

    thanks for this info… i have always wanted one, and would much rather piece together an old shell and new base. cool!

  • Reply Adam December 11, 2007 at 8:21 am

    Anna that chair is beautiful! I love that color blue. Where did you find the rockers to go on the chair? Your house is really looking lovely!

  • Reply nathalie December 11, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Fantastica 🙂

  • Reply katie December 11, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Lovely!!! Looks so much better as a rock. And the walnut runners are so nice and warm looking with that blue. Great combo.

    I’ve been on the ebay hunt for good vintage eames chairs. There’s a great feature on ebay where you can save your searches and they send you email alerts when new items pop up. Very handy!!!

  • Reply Jessica December 11, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I have an original eames chair as well but the fiberglass base is detached from the rocking portion. How did you get it re-attached? where did you go because I am interested in having it fixed.

  • Reply Anna at D16 December 11, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Jessica, all of the different base styles are compatible with all of the chairs, with the exception of some of the earlier stacking-style bases (they have a wider mount). The bases attach to the chairs with bolts that screw into rubber shock mounts on the bottom of the chair. If the chair is upholstered (like the one above), the mounts are usually loose and thin, like washers. On an unupholstered shell, the mounts are thicker and bonded to the surface of the chair (the threaded screw-hole is part of the rubber mount, so the bolt never enters the actual chair).

    What part of your chair has become detached? If it’s just the base, you should just be able to get some new bolts at Home Depot (I can measure and send you the size if you need) and you’re all set. If it the shock mount(s) that have come loose, it gets a little more complicated as they need to be rebonded very securely. Here’s a good guide. 🙂

    Hope this helps! If I misunderstood your question, let me know…

    • Reply John December 16, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Anna,

      I too like what you did with the chair.
      Questions: 1. are the hole patterns the same for every chair? I have the exact chair with a swivel base that is broken. Will the rocker base fit easily with the same holes?
      2. Are you interested in selling the old base?
      3. Where do I look to restore the fabric? My chair has a little pucker at the back.
      Thanks,
      John

      • Reply Anna @ D16 December 21, 2016 at 11:27 pm

        Hi John, this is a really old post—it’s from 9 years ago!—I no longer have the base (or the chair, for that matter). There are two different styles of mounts for Eames shell chairs: wide mount and standard mount. If your chair originally had a swivel base, it’s a standard mount and a rocker base will fit. Sorry, I don’t have any help for you on upholstery repair.

  • Reply Lauren December 11, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Amen sister. I love the fiberglass ones. I wasn’t sure about buying them on eBay, but found Modernica which sells reproductions of the fiberglass, in lots of cool colors. Totally expensive though. I’m so glad you’ve had such luck with eBay and vintage finds!

  • Reply Anna at D16 December 11, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Sorry, Zee, I missed your question! Yes, the flokati is back. The stripey rug was cute, but too small. I love flokatis, but I get sick of having to brush them out and deal with the shedding, etc. Every now and then I put it away out of frustration, and then a week later it’s back. 🙂

  • Reply Chairfag December 11, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    We’re so glad you found our restoration guide helpful!
    Hopefully we will have the site more populated soon!
    🙂

  • Reply Kay* December 11, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Your chair looks amazing! The rocker base was a great decision. I’ve recently found some chairs online that I blogged about and I’d love to get you chair experts’ opinion on them – I don’t know if they’re a good find or trash! My eye needs a touch more training it seems…

  • Reply lori December 12, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Your chair is beautiful!

    I found a set of 4 of the non-upholstered vintage fiberglass shell chairs at a garage sale for an awesome price, however two of the chairs have problems. One has a crack in front edge of the seat and they both have a few too many scratches and marks. I’d love to use all 4 at my dining table, but do you have any ideas on fixing the actual shells? All the bases are okay. Can I patch the crack and paint them?

  • Reply Anna at D16 December 12, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Lori, how bad is the crack? I think painting them would really take away from the beauty of the fiberglass.

    Here’s what I would do: patch/sand the crack (perhaps with Bondo?) and paint just that area in a contrasting/complementary color — make the crack and patch into something special. Get creative. (If you show me a picture, I might be able to help you come up with some ideas.)

    As for the scratches and marks, try cleaning them with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and a little water. They can work miracles! You’d be amazed what will come off of fiberglass with a Magic Eraser that would never budge otherwise. Then give the chairs a coat of Penetrol (check out this tutorial, it’s great). I’ve never done this before, but it looks like the results are stunning.

    Really, if the chairs are beat up anyway, what do you have to lose? I bet you’ll wind up with an amazing looking set. 🙂

  • Reply meghan smith December 12, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    I love your chairs (and the chair dog bed)

  • Reply lori December 12, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    Anna,

    I looked at the crack again and it’s not as bad as I remembered. It’s more like a hairline crack. I may send a picture when I get my camera batteries charged.

    And thanks so much for the tip on the Magic Eraser and the link on using the Penetrol! I think you’re right about painting…I like the orange color anyway and could never match it. With a little work I’m sure they’ll be fabulous.

  • Reply Val December 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    What are the most obvious signs for a real Eames shell?
    I mean is there any sign, inprints on the bottom of the chair that could not be faked? sorry im by far not an expert on this as you can judge by the question 🙂

  • Reply Jon January 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I just bought myself a beautiful seafoam green shell and a repro rocker base from Modernica but the screws that came with the rocker base dont fit the original shock mounts. They do not thread properly. Did you have this problem? do you know the size screw I need?

  • Reply Anna at D16 January 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Val: I’m sorry, I didn’t see your question before now! To answer, the most obvious sign of an authentic Eames shell would be an embossed/raised Herman Miller logo on the bottom. There are some instances of older shells not having a logo, but these are definitely the exception rather than the rule. The best indicator is the shape, though! Other than the non-licensed Modernica reproductions, I’ve never seen a fiberglass knockoff that has the same shape and proportions as the real thing (though there are some contemporary copies made of plastic that have the same shape). I hope that helps!

    Jon: What kind of shock mounts does your base have? Are they the kind that are like separate, thin washers? Or are they thick ones bonded directly to the chair? I’m surprised that the screws Modernica sent didn’t fit. I wish I could give you a number, but to be honest, I’ve always managed to find spare screws that fit in my “screw can” (a can of random screws I’ve been collecting for the past 15 years or so). My best suggestion to you would be to take the entire chair (not the base) along with you to Home Depot or Lowes and test drive a bunch of screws to see what gives you the best fit. As long it’s a machine screw (no point, threaded along the entire shaft) with a round or truss head (no tapering), you should be fine — it’s just a matter of taking the time to find the right fit. Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply Barry A. Smith March 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Your blog is great. I have learned a lot already after having just discovered you. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Dan March 23, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I would really appreciate it if you could tell me who (on ebay) you bought your bases from?
    I’m looking to buy 4 sets of bases for 4 Eames “Style” fiberglass shell chairs.
    They were thrown out of a city college in Brooklyn NY – originally high stools on swivel bases (bases manufactured by the Adjusto Equipment Company) the swivel bases were pretty much shot they each (one black one white, one yellow & one green (green is a fiberglass version of you rocker style) – they each have nicely written “Graphic Arts” lettering painted (red) on the backs
    The diagonal hole spacing on each chairs swivel base attachment is 5 5/8″, the diagonal hole spacing of the bolts on the actual chairs is 9 6/8″
    I have investigated a few sellers on ebay but am having difficulty nailing down a match – I could send a photo.
    Thanks
    Dan

  • Reply doug March 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    anna, I won a number of Herman Miller stacking fiberglass shell chairs at an auction. Most of them are marked with a C with a line thru it, above the Herman Miller logo, which is above HERMAN MILLER. But the others have a slanted S instead of the C. Can you tell me what the C and the S stand for.
    Thank you, Doug

  • Reply Anna at D16 March 27, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Dan: The eBay seller I bought my rocking base from is Meowziers. I know people who have bought from another seller, Dupury. I don’t know anything about where to buy bases for a knock-off, though. The mounting spread on Eames shells is always consistent — narrow or wide-mount, but no variation beyond that. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

    Doug: I’m pretty sure the various C/crescent/S marks relate to the date of manufacture.

  • Reply kevin v May 20, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    your chair looks fantastic. I have an older shell without a base. I just bought a rocker base but am lacking the bolts to attach it to the rubber mounts. Does anyone know the dimensions of the bolts? thanks.

  • Reply Deb J May 24, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I found 4 white shell chairs in a dump exchange. I took them because I thought they were cool. I just noticed today that they are Herman Miller chairs. The bases were rusty so I painted them black. There are some stains on the fiberglass itself. I’m not sure how to remove them. I bleached the hell out of them and it helped, but not entirely.

  • Reply lindsay June 7, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Hi Anna,

    I just bought an upholstered eames arm shell chair. It came with a rocker base, but it seems so low…are they supposed to be that low? Also there are no black shock mounts on mine. Should there be? I’ve seen where I can purchase them on ebay and wonder if I should. Any info would be appreciated. Yours looks amazing!

  • Reply Andrea September 6, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Anna. I am wondering how to date my Herman Miller Eames chair. It is definitly an authentic. Stackable w/original metal base. It is fiberglass, parchment color, embossed with Henry Miller on the bottom. With a black ring stamped “California”. Not paper stickered anywhere in sight. No glue residue, and yes an embossed S as Doug mentioned. Mine also has an embossed B. Do you know what year, or who can give this info? Thanks, Andrea

  • Reply justine February 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    hi there! do you know if the swivel bases fit on narrow or wide mount? I think the rocker you swapped your base for fits on both?? Thanks!

    • Reply Anna @ D16 February 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      I don’t know anything about swivel bases specifically, but I know there is an adapter that you can buy to make narrow-mount bases fit on wide-mount chairs. Without the adapter, though, the bases are not interchangeable.

  • Reply MAH August 29, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Very cool regarding Herman Miller chairs- I have a few that need to be fixed as the seams of the shells have separated, Does anyone have solutions for me to get them repaired? I am also in the market for a high stool base as I want to convert the base from an office chair to a high stool. Thanks.

  • Reply Birte Harley November 22, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    What a lovely web page. I so enjoyed seeing your home and children. Thank you too for the recipes.

    do you have the recipe for the braided bread that I see in you latest post. I would love to have it.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours,

    Birte, from California

    • Reply Anna @ D16 November 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      Hi Birte, thank you, but I think you might be commenting on the wrong blog. I don’t have any children, and my latest post is a giveaway for a textile designer!

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